Chief weathered several storms during 11 yearsSEASIDE - Ken Almberg has been removed as Seaside police chief.

While City Manager Mark Winstanley won't say Almberg was fired, the chief has been placed on a two-week administrative leave, which is city policy to allow time to appeal such an action.

Lt. David Ham was named as acting chief. Ham declined to comment this morning, referring all questions to City Hall.

Winstanley said that there was no criminal misconduct and that "other misconduct is not a factor in this administrative decision."

The ousting came as a surprise to Seaside Mayor Don Larson Tuesday.

"The chief and I have always had a good working relationship," Larson said. "He's been so pro-drug cleanup."

Almberg has been chief in Seaside since 1994 and has weathered several storms during his 11-year tenure.

His leadership came under the most public scrutiny in July 2003 when a team of five state experts roundly criticized his style and effectiveness. For five months, the team from the Loaned Executive Management Program of Oregon's Department of Public Safety Standards and Training interviewed staff members who were promised no reprisals for speaking freely.

The team's report found Almberg had a "clear lack of leadership role-modeling" and that there was a fear in the department of "unspoken threats of potential harm should employees be truthful regarding their thoughts and opinions." The outside specialists identified the poor relationship between Almberg and his deputy, Jan Schumaker, who retired in January 2004, and noted how Sgt. Steve Barnett, the department's top detective, was viewed as the chief's "hatchet man."

They added that many staff believed the "open-door" management concept didn't apply to everyone.

"The organization is fragmented into cliques, resulting in rumors, back-stabbing, and sabotaging behaviors," the experts commented. "Thus, the organization is unable to complete little more than reactive business-related policing policies."

When the report was made public, Almberg and Winstanley both sought to characterize it as a positive airing of feelings and a foundation on which to build change.

There have been other controversies on Almberg's watch.

Practices in the police station's holding cell - where prisoners arrested by Seaside officers are kept before being transported north to the Clatsop County Jail - were reviewed after the hanging death of one man and two other suicide attempts in the mid- to late 1990s.

In October 1998, a bullet from one officer's .45-caliber handgun grazed the belt of another officer when the supposedly "unloaded" weapon fired during a training session at the police station on how to remove a handcuffed suspect from a car. The bullet struck a pepper spray canister, sending fumes throughout the building, disrupting the dispatch center and forcing staff to air out the building. While no one was injured, the incident was investigated by the Oregon State Police and caused the department to reconsider its practice of allowing officers to wear real guns in training situations.

In June 2001, the department came under embarrassing scrutiny when semi-nude photographs of Seaside High School cheerleaders were posted on the Internet and questions were asked about the role of an officer not initially involved in that investigation sending copies of the photos from one computer to another.

Almberg has unsuccessfully sought other chief positions on at least two other occasions. In December 2001, he was one of six finalists considered for chief of the much larger Kelso, Wash., police department. He also was a contender for the Newport chief's position in January 2003.


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